Warning: Lots of talk about the subject of death, some of it specifically relating to Caemon, ahead.
Ever since we explained Caemon’s death to Curly, he has been quietly ruminating on it and conversations concerning death have popped up in very unexpected ways.
Last weekend, we were watching the movie Pocahontas, and at the end when John Smith is shot and has to sail back to England, Curly began crying. I said, “I know this is sad and hard to watch, but he’s going to be ok. But I’m sad for him, too.” Curly replied through the tears, “I’m not sad about that. I’m sad because Caemon died.” My heart broke again upon hearing him say that and we held each other and cried together.
One morning when I was bringing him to school, he commented on how one of his friend’s parents drove a minivan. I told him that parents with more than one kid usually drive bigger cars. He went on saying “maybe you’ll have another boy” to which I replied, “Nope…just you. You’re the only kid we want.” Then he said, “Maybe you’ll have another boy when I pass out.” It made me laugh for a second until I realized he didn’t mean pass out, he meant pass away. I asked him if that’s what he meant and he said yes. I told him he was going to live a long time and he did not need to worry about that. That he’s the only kid we’ll ever need.
He’s been trying to understand how sick someone must be, especially a child, in order to die. We’ve been stressing how rare that is and do our best to reassure him. He hasn’t so much asked what happens after you die, although we’ve told him that the body stops working and different people believe different things about heaven, etc…although it got so confusing so quickly that he moved on to another subject.
It is interesting how pre-schoolers process things. In this case, interesting and also very sad.
I started to tell Riley and then just couldn’t do it. She’s already so concerned that Pippi Longstocking’s mother died and talks about it a lot. And I just couldn’t tell her about Caemon without completely losing it.
It’s such a hard, sad subject at this age. I always feel so awkward trying to explain it in terms they can understand without scaring them. We recently took the boys to a visitation for their great aunt and it was an open casket. I think we did a good job preparing them because they didn’t mention it much after. We let them decide if they wanted to go up to the casket or not, and they both decided they did. When I picked Ian up to look, I thought he was going to start crying. I was surprised at how well he seemed to understand that this was something sad, that something was different. He didn’t always seem to be listening when Erik asked a million questions and we talked to both of them about it several times, but clearly, by the way he behaved at the visitation, he’d taken in some of what we said. Then yesterday, as we were driving, Erik said in a very sad voice, “There’s Aunt Carol’s funeral home.” They are also very much aware that my brother died (before they were born) and we talk about him all the time, but their aunt was the first time they’d known someone who died. (Well, my grandma died when Erik was one, but he obviously doesn’t remember.)
There’s a book I keep hearing about called “When Dinosaurs Die”. Maybe that would be helpful for Curly.
I applaud you for telling him. I was unable to tell Owen.
That so many of the kids born around the same time as Caemon have to somehow process this adds another level of heartbreak to it all. There are books that are okay for explaining this to kids, one of which one of Caemon’s nurses brought to us. It’s called Lifetimes (Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen), and it explains death in a very straightforward yet beautiful way–that all living things have a beginning and an end, and living is what happens in between. She’s sorted through a lot of these books, and this seems to be one that doesn’t place any sort of other meaning on it, which can be helpful in keeping things less complicated for little ones.
A friend of ours who is both a parent and a preschool teacher wrote a beautiful story, which she told at the service. Because we are trying to help her get it published, I can’t put it up on the blog, but I can share with you privately. It’s about a boy who dies and the very lovely things that happens when he does. It’s not about heaven, just about the human spirit. I think you might like it, and I know the kids who were Curly’s age kept talking about it after, finding a lot of comfort. If you’d like me to send it to you, send me an email or FB message with your email address.
Please give your boy a hug for me. xo
Doris talks about death a lot and I’m not sure where it’s coming from. She always asks “will you love me even when I die?” It chokes me up every time and I say that I will love her even more.
I think it’s great that you have talked to Curly about Caemon. It teaches compassion. You are doing a great job. The key is to keep the dialogue open. Curly is not alone. A lot of us out here are still having trouble processing Caemon’s passing, and we are much older than him!
His reaction to Pocahontas made me cry – for Curly and Caemon. It really is wonderful that you’re talking about death with Curly even though it sounds incredibly hard.
For our duo, when we talked about it they were able to understand death as it related to the passing of an elderly relative, but when it came to talking about Caemon with them – they have not been able to wrap their heads around it. I am sure some of these conversations are going to come up soon.
What an amazing kid.
(we told n. she really didn’t get it, not one little bit. I’m okay with that in a way that makes me uncomfortable. :-/)
It is so sad to see them learn about the harder sadder things. Pnut is just that tiny bit younger than Curly and hasn’t asked.
He’s such a sweet, sensitive guy. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to read about him processing the passing of someone his age. I feel lucky that my kids are still too young to ask questions, because honestly I am not sure I would have handled it as well as you did.
Oh dear. I hadn’t heard about Caemon. My heart is broken for them.
Who is Caemon and why did he die? Such a beautiful tribute to his memory.